Commissioner Mike Edney
By Pete Zamplas- Mike Edney has served as commissioner for parts of three decades and wants to continue to help lead tight budgeting and prioritizing facility improvements.
Each of five Henderson County commissioners represents a specific district, and county-wide interests. All voters in the county elect them. Edney serves District One, based in Hendersonville and East Flat Rock. His two challengers are building contractor Andrew Riddle and G.E. maintenance retiree Hogan Corn. Their Republican primary is May 6. Early voting ends Friday, May 2.
J. Michael “Mike” Edney, 53, is in his second stint as a commissioner. He served in 1988 to 1996. The attorney then ran unsuccessfully for district court judge, in ’96. He won election in his next try, in 2010. He unseated then-Chairman Bill Moyer, in the primary 4,977 to 4,955 — by merely 22 votes. Edney then beat unaffiliated candidate Dr. Scott Donaldson, who petitioned and got onto the ’10 fall ballot.
With no non-Republicans on the Nov. 4 ballot yet, commissioner races are apt to be decided by voters in the GOP primary next week. However, a runoff ensues if underdog Corn pulls enough votes to deny Edney or Riddle the 40 percent required to win.
Edney emphasizes his experience and knowing community issues. In the ’10 campaign, Edney ripped how property taxes jumped 82 percent during Moyer’s dozen years. Rates steadied in Edney’s current term. He noted Henderson County’s 51.36 cents per $100 of county-assessed property value is fourth lowest in the state, for having 100,000-plus residents.
He also points to recent county advances in jobs, teacher supplemental pay, emergency services, health care (UNC Health overseeing Pardee Hospital, Wingate studies) and a $14 million law enforcement center.
“Jobs can cure a lot of ills, and we’ve done a lot in that regard,” he said at the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored candidate forum April 23. “County finances are in great shape. We’ll keep it that way.”
Edney has been a private attorney for 29 years, since 1985. He is known as a deliberate thinker, who considers options and ramifications. He graduated from Hendersonville High (HHS) in 1978, UNC-Asheville with a political science degree, then University of South Carolina School of Law in 1985. The Edney family has lived locally since 1780. Mike and Lisa Mazzeo Edney’s children are Mitch and Megan, ages 13 and 9.
On the unreserved fund balance, Edney said the appropriate level varies per year along with revenue and spending urgencies. “We’re pretty close to where we need to be right now, as far as percentages,” he said. He forecast dipping into that rainy-day fund for a few years, rather than raise taxes.
Getting Deal Above Water
The 1995 water pact between the county and City of Asheville spurred N.C. 280 industrial corridor development, by providing water-sewer service, Edney said. He said the Sierra Nevada brewery is part of “millions and millions of dollars in investment” and more than 1,000 new jobs there.
Edney helped negotiate that pact, then last year got the state to better ensure Asheville keeps its end of the deal. Asheville got to build a water treatment plant and transmission lines, near where the Mills River and French Broad River meet. There have been outcries over parting with water rights. The state controls those rights.
Edney said only surplus Mills River water can go to Buncombe County. “Henderson County always gets first dibs on that water. Any water that we need comes out first. They get our leftovers, if there are any.” He said Mills River lacks enough water for Buncombe’s long-term needs, but any surplus can help during drought.
Buncombe County voters turned down a bond referendum for water intake from the dirtier French Broad River, spurring the request for a cleaner water source. But Edney told The Tribune that Asheville-Buncombe officials did not plan to regularly draw Mills River water, but seeming so might help “sell” the idea for the new site. He said, “they’re getting their same water, not our water.” And he noted the shutdown of such intensive water-using plants as Gerber reduced Asheville’s need to draw water in Henderson County.
Another point debated is if Henderson County got enough in return, such as with control over 137 acres in Bent Creek and in area water policy input. The county got a seat on a Regional Water Authority board and Edney served in it, in 1994-97. But that board became defunct and was not replaced until by a state bill last year and with better Henderson representation. The authority can restrict higher “outside rates” for water users outside Asheville limits, which, state lawmakers said, overly subsidized city services those users did not get.
In urging House Bill 488 at a hearing, Edney declared “I feel the cold steel from the knives stuck in our backs.” He wrote about Asheville officials, “They promised — at a minimum — a regional water authority, with real representation.” He said that promise was broken.
HB 488 merged Asheville’s water system with the Metropolitan Sewerage District (MSD) and Fletcher-area Cane Creek Water and Sewer. State Reps. Chuck McGrady and Tim Moffitt were bill catalysts.
Edney noted the 1995 pact’s plan was to enable Henderson County to require Asheville pay to extend water lines to Cane Creek and Arden, to spur industrial growth. He explained the Bent Creek tract was earmarked for MSD to build a wastewater treatment facility to serve North Henderson-South Buncombe industry. But MSD deemed such a plant unnecessary amidst plant closings.
The unused wooded Bent Creek site off Ferry Road, by I-26, is going up for sale by the county. Edney expects a price of over $2 million. A Henderson-Asheville pact agreed in mid-April dedicates sale proceeds to a regional law enforcement training facility in Henderson County, he explained. The main asset is a much-needed outdoor shooting range.
For more information on Mike Edney’s campaign, check ElectEdney.com.